Category Archives: News

Timeline of Edward Snowden and PRISM

One of the striking things about this whole thing is how young Edward Snowden is. I thought it might be interesting to put some things into context.

1983 – Snowden born.

1998 – Snowden is 15 years old. COPPA and DMCA enacted. Google founded.

2001 – Snowden is 18 years old. Terrorists hijack airplanes and attack New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

2004 – Snowden is 21 years old. Snowden enlists in the Army, and is discharged following a training accident. Facebook founded.

2005 – Snowden is 22 years old. YouTube founded.

2007 – Snowden is 24 years old. Protect America Act enacted. PRISM begins. iPhone launched. Microsoft joins PRISM.

2008 – Snowden is 25 years old. FISA Amendments Act of 2008 enacted. Yahoo! joins PRISM.

2009 – Snowden is 26 years old. Google and Facebook join PRISM.

2010 – Snowden is 27 years old. YouTube joins PRISM.

2011 – Snowden is 28 years old. AOL and Skype join PRISM.

2012 – Snowden is 29 years old. Apple joins PRISM.

2013 – Snowden leaks classified documents about PRISM to the Guardian and the Washington Post and goes into hiding in Hong Kong.

I looked most of this up on Wikipedia, so it must be true.

Image CC BY Fraktion DIE LINKE. im Bundestag

Google and Apple are growing the pie

From February 2010 to March 2011, the Blackberry went from 42.1% market share to 27.1% market share. But when you look at the chart, it’s clear that this is mostly due to new smart phone users opting to go for Android and iPhone. Those devices grew by 28m users combined while the overall smart phone market grew by 27.1m users. Still, the fact that RIM can’t get any new Blackberry users is a clear sign that they’re in trouble.

comScore press releases

Update 7/5/2011:

Here’s a Google Chart with some updated numbers.

Click through to view the full-size version.

There’s no shame in walking away

Apparently there’s a growing number of people strategically defaulting on their mortgages. Or, at the very least, there’s a growing fear that this is happening. For some commentators, this is a sign of low moral fiber, that the strategic defaulters are somehow breaking their word, losing their honor, etc.


Housing loans are not based on the belief that the borrower will pay the money back because his honor is at stake. They are based on a contract, which spells out exactly what the lender can do if the borrower stops paying back the loan. The lender can choose to take the house and sue the borrower for the difference between the house’s value and the loan amount (unless it is a non-recourse loan).

There’s also this refrain of unease that not only is the decision to default immoral, but it’s just too easy and trivial to do. That the borrower somehow escapes punishment-free for buying too much house or getting a terrible loan.

But losing your home and getting sued is not a trivial thing. Not to mention the massive hit your credit score will take. For the borrower who defaults, it means that credit will either be unavailable or offered at exorbitant rates. Moreover, employers and landlords often do credit checks prior to hiring or renting, which will further limit the borrower’s options.

Nor is it necessarily easy! The lender has the option to take the home, but no obligation to do so. If there’s a glut of inventory in a particular submarket, a backlog of defaults to process, etc., the lender can choose to send nasty letters to try to get the borrower to pay, but may hold off on actually seizing the property. In the meantime, the borrower still owns the property and any liabilities that go along with it.

Finally, there are those that mention other effects of the foreclosure, such as declining house values and higher borrowing costs within the submarket or economic cohort. But aren’t these effects the natural outcomes of a market? We are coming off a 7 year bubble; houses are going to go into foreclosure, prices will drop, costs will increase, and to expect anything else is insane.

The bottom line is that the decision to take a loss, just as the decision to purchase, should be evaluated rationally by the individuals involved. There are a lot of things to consider beyond the value of your house, the amount of your loan, your monthly income, and the monthly expenses, but morality is not one of them.

What price for safety?

I don’t really have a strong opinion about the latest proposals to keep us safe from terrorists on airplanes.

However, I thought it might be worth noting that according to the NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System Encyclopedia, there were 37,261 traffic fatalities in 2008. For the prior 14 years, this number was north of 40,000 annual fatalities.

As far as I know, there hasn’t been much discussion about these numbers. Maybe it’s because our fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled has been dropping over time, and we think that having fewer than 2 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled is an acceptable loss.

Could we apply this acceptable loss rate to air travel and reap the benefits of the recovered productivity?

Or should we strengthen our traffic laws and their enforcement so that we get traffic fatality numbers below the omg threshold?

Piss off the music industry

For those of you who still have extensive CD collections, you can probably piss off the music industry by ripping all your CDs in a high quality format (e.g., FLAC) and then giving them to your local public library as a tax-deductible donation. Yesterday I read that ASCAP and BMI want to be paid for 30 second song samples, and it occurred to me that the public library has some pretty well established rights to let patrons borrow books, music, and videos for free (zomg!). Any attorneys want to chime in on this?